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Gunsmoke (1955–1975)

TV Series  |  TV-PG  |   |  Western
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Marshal Matt Dillon keeps the peace in the rough and tumble Dodge City.

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Airs Mon. Nov. 30, 12:00 PM on TVLAND





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1975   1974   1973   1972   1971   1970   … See all »
Nominated for 4 Golden Globes. Another 15 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete series cast summary:
 Matt Dillon (635 episodes, 1955-1975)
 Doc (604 episodes, 1955-1975)
 Kitty / ... (568 episodes, 1955-1974)
 Festus / ... (304 episodes, 1959-1975)
 Chester / ... (290 episodes, 1955-1964)


Marshal Matt Dillon is in charge of Dodge City, a town in the wild west where people often have no respect for the law. He deals on a daily basis with the problems associated with frontier life: cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, standover tactics, and land fraud. Such situations call for sound judgement and brave actions: of which Marshal Dillon has plenty. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Release Date:

10 September 1955 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Marshal Dillon  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)


(1955-1966)| (1966-1975)

Aspect Ratio:

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Did You Know?


In the radio version, Chester's last name was Proudfoot, but when the show moved to TV his last name was changed to Goode. See more »


Matt is called a US Marshal. Kansas became a state in 1861, more than a decade before the series is set. There was only one US district court in Kansas and one marshal assigned to it, plus a number of deputy marshal. All deputies would be based in Hays, the capital, not towns like Dodge. And deputies would enforce federal laws and court orders, and capture federal fugitives. They would not have state or local jurisdiction (like breaking up fights in the Long Branch). At the time of the series Dodge had a town marshal, and a county sheriff with jurisdiction outside the town limits. See more »


Festus Haggen: Don't you think somebody oughta reckon with him, Matthew?
U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon: What did you say his name was again, Festus?
Festus Haggen: I think its Sinclair... Jack Sinclair.
U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon: He's got no left hand?
Festus Haggen: That's right. Anyways, don't you think somebody ought to go reckon with him?
U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon: No!
Festus Haggen: Why not, Matthew?
U.S. Marshal Matt Dillon: Because it was my bullet that took his hand!
See more »


Spoofed in Dennis the Menace: The School Play (1961) See more »


The Old Trail
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User Reviews

The three eras of TV's classic western
10 March 2002 | by (N Syracuse NY) – See all my reviews


That Gunsmoke is the greatest TV western of all time is hard to dispute. it may be the great TV show of all time. Think of what your favorite show might have been like after 20 years on the air and then compare it to Gunsmoke, which was probably as good as anything on TV for it's entire twenty year run. Not too many shows were on so long that their runs can be divided into eras, but Gunsmoke has three of them. The first is the half hour black and white era, (1955-61). This is the most praised era of the show and the era of it's greatest popularity, (it was the #1 show on TV the last four of those years). Critics praise the "tight scripting" of those days and James Arness has said he prefers John Meston's "little morality plays" to the later hour episodes, which some critics have called "bloated". I like the half hours because they show the program in it's formative years, when the cast was young, (and the right age for their characters). I also like you can get four of them to a cassette, rather than two. But these shows are basically about incidents, rather than stories. They lack character and story development. The second era is the hour long black and white era. This is my favorite, firstly because it's the earliest one I remember from the times I watched it with my father and secondly because it's the best. With the extra hour to work with and a new group of writers to do the work,. the series matured. The supporting cast became stars, (nearly every famous episode featuring Chester, Festus, Doc or Kitty comes from this period). It also is the era when the second lead was introduced. the first and best was Burt Reynolds as Quint Asper, who's entire run is in this era. The writers also increased the scope of the show by focusing on "guest characters" with the regulars as supporting players. Unfortunately, the general public didn't share my enthusiasm for this era, (or they found something better to do on Saturday nights). Gunsmoke fell from #1 to #36, (in an era where there were only three networks), and actually got briefly canceled until William Paley saved it. But the old Saturday night spot was taken by Mannix so the show was moved to Tuesday, where it was expected to die a natural death among shows intended for younger viewers. In the greatest upset in TV ratings history, the show was discovered by a new generation and rebounded to #2, earning it another 8 years on the air, by which time the western craze it had started was long over and all it's rivals, even Bonanza, were long off the air.

By this time, color had taken over. And it didn't do the show much good. Magazine reporters used to say: black and white for drama, color for excitement. Gunsmoke was about drama. Gunsmoke used to use an outdoor set for daytime Dodge City scenes. That disappeared in favor of an indoor set about 1960. In black an white the indoor set sufficed. In color it looked garish and stagy. Color had the same effect on the actors who were now too old for their roles. Real western marshals served for a few months at a time, (and, by the way, US Marshals were never town marshals). it became increasingly ridiculous to see Matt Dillon still gunning down the young whippersnappers after a decade or more. Miss Kitty went from a purdy young thing to a middle aged painted lady. Doc became increasingly enfeebled as Milburn Stone's health declined. Somehow the color film brought out all the wrinkles more than black and white. There where compensations. Each season began with a movie-caliber two parter shot on location in some national park. the overall script quality remained high as the cadre of writers continued to expand. They even got an outdoor set to use again in the later years, although it didn't look much like the Dodge City we had come to know.

The TV movies? The first one was terrible. The second one was quite good. the third one stunk and I didn't bother with them after that.

25 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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